How To Give Yourself Magical Multicolored Pastel Hair

The unicorn look is fun, versatile, and sort of feels like you're doing an art project on your head every time you reapply the colour.
Publish date:
August 28, 2013
hair color, How-To, DIY, conditioners, Manic Panic, pastel hair, unicorn hair

Recently, I have become obsessed with looking like a magical creature. I want my aesthetic to be that of a sparkly glitter goddess. I want people I walk past in the streets to expect twinkling light to spark out of my fingertips.

The easiest way I can see to make this a (sort of) reality is by altering my favourite beauty prey: my hair.

Two years ago, I met a wonderful friend who taught me the secrets of dyeing my own hair, a skill set passed down to her by a bleach-blonde hairdresser best friend from her hometown. I instantly fell in love with the whole experience; smoking out the bathroom window with the smell of dangerous chemicals heavy in the air, being at her house for our monthly touchups made me feel like a low-budget housewife in the '50s.

Since we're both lovers of all things unicorn and mermaid, it wasn't long before pastel colours started making their way onto our application brushes. I rotated between pink, lavender and mint for about a year (though I mostly stuck to pink because, pink.) I felt more magical by the day, obsessing over the exact tone of my cotton candy hair and almost constantly applying more colour.

I changed my hair so often people didn't even notice when it went from neon pink to baby ballerina peach, so often that I began to echo the notepad in this creepy stop motion, repeating over and over, "I use my hair to express myself."

But when the mannequins at H+M showed up to their window display with rosy wigs, I felt a few drops of magic fall from my split ends. Pastel hair was no longer a superpower--it was a trend!

Although I was thoroughly dedicated to having pink hair most of the time, I needed a change, and over a particularly long Pinterest binge, I began to realize what the next natural step was: UNICORN HAIR.

Unicorn hair is actually quite simple compared to an all over pastel dip. It's fun, versatile, and sort of feels like you're doing an art project on your head every time you reapply the colour. Basically, instead of dealing with full coverage and one pastel shade, you're dealing with chunks of various colour all on the same head.

Yes, it is messy. Yes, it is magical. Yes, you will probably ruin your bathroom sink/floor/bathtub.


Start with the lightest hair you can manage. I bleach my hair quite frequently and tone to keep the colour fresh in between.

I always prime with an ashy grey toner (usually the names are something extremely hyperbolic like "super platinum ash light blonde") and colour my whole head with it at least a few hours before, though this time I just left it as a more natural yellowy blonde and it worked fine.


Separate your hair. There is no specific way to do this for unicorn hair; it all depends on your goal.

This time, I wanted to just colour the top layer of my hair and leave some plain blonde underneath, so I used a headband to separate the part I wanted the dye to touch from the part I didn't, and roped the latter into a bun.

A disclaimer here to perfectionists: you most likely will get dye on some of the parts of your hair that you don't want to. Dye gets on hands and hair gets on face. It's inevitable. I generally like when the colour accidentally hits a spot I didn't want it to, as its easy to make it another streak or even an ombré chunk if another colour is already on there. But if you really want to be exact, use tin foil to cover and fold away each piece you paint to avoid transfer. Clearly I am too artistic (AKA lazy) to employ this step.


Assemble your supplies. I always use Manic Panic because its vegan, fades nicely and doesn't last too long (about two or three washes), which suits my short attention span. You can use any combination of colours you like, but in this case, I chose Atomic Turquoise for my blue, Electric Amethyst for the purple, and a combination of Red Passion and Cotton Candy Pink for, well, the perfect pink (duh).

On top of this, you'll need a hair dye mixing bowl (or just a bowl), an application brush, gloves if you want any chance of saving that cute nail art you just applied yesterday (though I chose to go gloveless this time), and a big old bottle of conditioner. The type of conditioner doesn't really matter, although a moisturizing formula will give your hair a nice special treatment, but there is one important rule: DON'T BUY A COLOURED CONDITIONER! It absolutely has to be creamy white when you squirt it out of the bottle or colour mixing will be hell. Seriously.


Now for the fun part! Make your colours! I only have one bowl to work with so I usually start with my lightest colour and then move on to the next one when my bowl is empty or I think my hair has had enough. In this case that means I went from pink to purple to blue, so even if there is a bit of the previous colour leftover in the bowl it blends nicely with the newest dye.

To make the colour, simply add your Manic Panic, add conditioner, and mix. For the purple, I add only a drop of conditioner as it generally comes out rather light, but for any other colour I use more of a three parts conditioner to one part dye ratio.

My general rule of thumb is to make the colour in the bowl a bit darker than the shade you want it to be on your head, but like I said, it fades quite quickly, so if you accidentally make your bangs neon blue, don't chop them off. It will heal in time (or if you're desperate, with a bit of dish soap and a rinse).


Apply the colour. Do this by simply grabbing chunks of hair that you want to be the colour that's in the bowl and start painting/massaging them with the dye. I paint roots to end, and then slather my hands with colour and work it into the chunk.


Pin each coloured strand into a tiny bun on top of your head with a bobby pin, elastic, or small hair clip, trying your best not to let the coloured bits touch the other bits. Continue painting and pinning until a satisfactory amount of your hair has that first colour in it. Then wash your hands and start from step 4 on your next colour.


Continue until a satisfactory amount of your hair is covered with all the colours you wish. Then wash your hands and chill out with a book for about half an hour. Manic Panic is vegetable dye, so it won't hurt your hair to leave it on longer, but I find when mixed with conditioner it doesn't do much after half an hour or so.


Rinse! Rinse, my pretties! If you want your colour more rich and dark, a simple cold water dip under the tap will do nicely, but if you want your locks a bit more faded and dreamy, give your hair a quick wash with shampoo and warmer water.


Style! Now that your hair is comparable to that of a My Little Pony, the world of hairstyles is all the more exciting. My personal favourite looks are tiny braids with bows, sparkles, or tiny stars hairsprayed in near my roots (inspired by Kelly), or a wavy mermaid number made possible by Kevin Murphy's Hair.Resort beach texturizer and some finishing spray.


Gallop off into the sunset. You are a unicorn now.